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The Banger Sisters

I like Susan Sarandon. I really like Goldi Hawn, and I have since Laugh-In (I was very young, but I remember it). I have always liked and respected Geoffrey Rush. It's a shame that the filmmakers of this otherwise decent friendship-renewal story took Mr. Rush's last name as an indication of how to handle the overall storyline. The Bangers Sisters isn't the long, slow, enjoyable bit of affection it should be, but actually comes off more like a rather unsatisfying 'quickie'.

Goldi Hawn plays Suzette, a groupie from rock-n-roll's glory days, still reveling in her memories of knowing rock mainstays like Jim Morrison. When she hits a rough spot in her life, she decided to go look up her old groupie-pal Vinnie, played by Susan Sarandon, whom she hasn't seen in 20 years. Along the way, Suzette picks up a disturbed, despondent Harry, played by Geoffrey Rush, an anal-retentive, conflicted, unhappy writer for whom Suzette becomes a whirlwind of antagonism and hope. Suzette finally locates Vinnie, only to find that she's become a drab, conservative, suburban mom-in-denial, taken advantage of by her husband and kids, and generally stuff and unhappy. Suzette decides to take matters into her own hands, and sets out to help 'Lavinia' find 'Vinnie' again.

Right off the bat, let me say that this is Goldi Hawn as you've never seen her before. I've always thought that Kurt was a lucky man, now I'm sure of it. This is a wise, sarcastic, sardonic, sometimes vulgar, but very earthy character that really stands out in contrast to the body of Hawn's work. Suzette is both wafty and very centered, whimsical but still aware of what's really important in life, ideas like respect, loyalty and friendship.

Susan Sarandon's character isn't much of a stretch at first, although I'll admit that I've never seen her play someone this uptight before. She does it fairly convincingly, but you can just feel, even form the beginning, how artificial it is. As Livinia remembers being Vinnie, and rediscovers the young woman underneath the older wife and mother image that has been forced on her, she really begins to shine, letting us see that smile that has so enthralled movie audiences for years.

Geoffrey Rush's portrayal of Harry is probably the most understated and most important in the film. Although almost an incidental, peripheral character, Harry becomes a pivotal motivator for both Suzette and Livinia as he gets dragged unwillingly into Suzette's plans, and ultimately becomes the final lynchpin which brings the two old friends fully back together. Rush's obsessive-compulsive character also provides several of the lighter, laugh-moments in the film, which it seems there should have been more of, but alas, it's hard to laugh when you don't have time.

Nods are also given to Erika Christensen and Eva Amurri, who play Sarandon's two daughters Hannah and Ginger, respectively. These two young women were good, if a bit stereotypical, as conflicted, spoiled daughters who think that their mother was always as uptight as she is, and recoil in shocked disbelief when Mom's past begins to come spilling back out into their lives, causing upheaval and change.

As I alluded to in the beginning, the downfall of this film is, once again, the seeming belief of Hollywood studio execs that the movie-going audience can't sit still for more than 90 minutes of so, and thus all movies must be kept sadly short and synopsized. The filmmakers of Banger Sisters obviously decided that too much emphasis on the transformation of Livinia would slow the movie down and bore the audience. Unfortunately, though no fault of Sarandon's, mind you, this transformation motif, as it is provided to the viewers, is where the movie fails. When Livinia's transformation comes, as it must come in a story such as this, it comes much too quickly, so abruptly I was immediately struck with the sense that I missed something. Unfortunately, so did everyone else who watched the film. Just 10 or 15 more minutes of the movement of Livinia to Vinnie would have set better with me, but as it was, it colored the rest of the film for me, making me feel rushed and vaguely unfulfilled.

I give this film a B-. The acting is superb, but the editors of the film have doomed it to second-class status. What could have been a wonderful story of the curse of the suburbs and the reunification of two friends winds up being nothing more than a quick shellacking of yet another urban transformation story. Actresses of the quality and repertoire of Hawn and Sarandon deserver better, more patient treatment. And Hollywood needs to understand that, sometimes, you need to let a film run a bit longer or you're short-changing the audience yet again. Here's hoping that, when the inevitable DVD comes out, we might see a director's cut, with much of the missing scenes put back in, to give the film the longevity and fullness-of-story it deserves.


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